The last time we had an edition of The Prowl, the Jaguars were uncertain about everything from the head coach, to the new owner, to the roster. Thankfully, not only do we have a few answers, we have optimistic answers. I know the season is still a while away, but it’s an exciting time in Jaguar Country so let’s take a look at the major changes and how they will help us this year.
Head Coach Mike Mularkey
Previously Offensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, Mularkey specializes in the areas the Jags need help building the most. A history of maintaining control on offense gives Mularkey an edge on wrangling in Blaine Gabbert’s passing game in order to help wide receivers. Bringing in the experience of QB Chad Henne not only puts the pressure on Gabbert to improve, but allows for Mularkey to concentrate on pairing passing with rushing this upcoming season. QB Jordan Palmer was also recently signed, ensuring Mularkey will have options should the need to make a change arise. As head coach of the Buffalo Bills, Mularkey showed an ability to rally a losing record to a winning record, which is exactly what the Jaguars need right now.
Snagging one of the top WR prospects in Justin Blackmon is one of the smartest moves I’ve seen the Jaguars make in a long time. In his last year at Oklahoma State, Blackmon posted 121 catches for 1,522 yards and 18 touchdowns. Named All-American and Fiesta Bowl MVP, Blackmon brings a fire to the WR core that hasn’t been lit since Jimmy Smith was in town. Also adding WR Laurent Robinson brings veteranship to an inexperienced core. With the underwhelming season we saw from Marcedes Lewis, having Blackmon around will give both veterans and young players a chance to remember when the Jaguars were a balanced rushing and passing team. In an eyebrow raising move, the Jaguars also picked to draft punter Bryan Anger in third round, the highest a punter has ever been selected. Jaguars camp must have been looking to extinguish our punting woes as quickly as possible. In an effort to build a franchise of returning names, picking young will do the trick. On the defensive end, Clemson’s Andre Branch is on board to aid in pass rushing where we previously saw only 31 sacks all season.
While Mel Tucker did not get the head coaching job, keeping him on as DC places stability in coaching staff where there are more new names than old names. Last season we saw an ability to intercept, force penalties, and close open lanes from Mel Tucker’s defense. Although these abilities did not carry over into every game, when they did happen, the Jags were able to pull drives together on offense. Working with Mel Tucker keeps the Jags defense mindful of continuing to work on the areas they excelled in, but a reminder there is still a long road ahead. Should the Jags decide to concentrate on blitzing this year, the addition of Andre Branch fills the hole of injuries and disappointing trades at the role of pass rusher. Right now, the Jaguars need depth. A host of recoveries from last season’s long injury list should place the Jaguars back on full attack.
I think Jaguars fans can be safe in being hopeful for a winning season this year. A total makeover is exactly what our franchise needed. With a new head coach, enthusiastic ownership, the right draft picks combined with keeping the right core players, the Jaguars can expect to compete. Maurice Jones-Drew will benefit from the help of able handed receivers while still dominating on the ground. Keeping the opponent from opening up a scorefest will take the pressure off of Blaine Gabbert, or any other QB, and hopefully place him in the progressive environment he missed out on last season. Is it me or are all these pieces coming together beginning to make the Jaguars to look like Coach Taylor and the Dillon Panthers from Friday Night Lights fame?
Lauren Mack: Co-founder of The Well Written Woman is an aspiring writer, blogger, and overall enthusiast of brainstorms. She is a graduate of Flagler College with a BA in English Literature and has no intentions to teach. Lauren spends a lot of time reading novels and hoping she can one day finish her own. She often wonders how they made blue cheese so delicious. Really, she is just imposing her elitist attitude on everyone. You can find her pennings at her blog and follow her on Twitter.